Plasma surface modification of two-component composite scaffolds consisting of 3D-printed and electrospun fiber components from biodegradable PLGA and PLCL

European Polymer Journal 2023 Volume 194, Article 112135

In this study, two-component, morphologically composite scaffolds consisting of a 3D-printed component and an electrospun fiber component were fabricated and treated with a nitrogen-argon (N2-Ar) plasma to enhance their surface properties. The 3D-printed component provided mechanical strength, while the electrospun fibrous component acted as a mimic to the extracellular matrix to improve cell-substrate interactions. Two biodegradable polyesters, poly(L-lactide-coε-caprolactone) (PLCL) and poly(L-lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA), were used to create the scaffolds. The resulting 3D/E/N2-Ar scaffolds were characterized in terms of surface properties (morphology, chemical compositions, wettability, roughness, crystallinity), degradation, mechanical properties, and cell cytotoxicity, cell attachment and proliferation, LDH release and cell apoptosis. Results showed that the plasma treatment significantly increased the surface roughness, wettability, and hydrophilicity of the scaffolds. The 3D-printed component provided sufficient mechanical support, while the electrospun fiber component promoted cell attachment and proliferation. Following plasma treatment, the water contact angle of the scaffolds was greatly reduced from 124.0 ± 1.8° (PLCL) and 119.6 ± 1.4° (PLGA), to 0° and persisted even after 168 days. Human Schwann cells (SCs) showed excellent viability on both 3D/E/N2-Ar and 3D/E scaffolds were in excess of 95%. Cells cultivated on the 3D/E/N2-Ar scaffolds, with higher surface roughness, displayed significant increase in attachment and proliferation and a higher presence of healthy cells when compared with untreated 3D/E scaffolds. Both PLCL and PLGA scaffolds showed potential for use in biomedical applications. Although PLGA performed slightly better in terms of cell behavior, PLCL exhibited a slower degradation rate and higher tensile strain. These results demonstrate the potential of these designed scaffolds to support cell regeneration in clinically relevant devices such as nerve guide conduits and nerve protectant wraps.